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Humans did not evolve to eat modern diet?


In “An Evolutionary Theory of Dentistry” (Science, 25 May 2012), Ann Gibbons reports,

According to work presented at a recent meeting, human teeth, jaws, and mouths are not adapted in a healthy way to the diet of modern industrial society. We evolved to thrive on coarse seeds, nuts, tubers, fruit, and meat. The mismatch between our adaptations and our environment causes the dental cavities, overcrowding of teeth, overbite, and gum disease that run rampant today. A study of two Maya villages presented at the meeting offers before-and-after images of a population undergoing the so-called nutrition transition in which people switch from a traditional subsistence diet to an Industrial Age diet of refined sugars and processed foods. At the meeting, an unusual mix of paleoanthropologists, archaeologists, dental researchers, and food scientists explored what is known about the diets and dental health of ancient humans, and how that information might be useful to dentists today.

Most likely, humans evolved to eat anything we could get. Anyone who doubts this should consider what foods are considered delicacies in various cultures. Honey ants, anyone?

This story sounds like an attempt to “science up” and “evolution up” a persistent and ancient belief that our ancestors ate more wisely and enjoyed better health than we do. Some of us have heard six-day creationists make an identical argument about the diet that Adam and Eve are supposed to have enjoyed.

All maybe, but it is worth looking at world life expectancy before we decide that the Industrial Age is a villain to health. The Industrial Age makes a variety of choices available, for health or otherwise, instead of having our health outcome handed to us by the scarcity and limitations of our “wild” environment.

Full text paywalled.

Having visited Mayan villages myself and having eaten with a Mayan family over their humble fire, I learned that the classic diet of rock-ground corn three times a day, which inevitably included fine particles of rock and debris ground up with the corn, was very hard on their teeth -- often leading to the teeth being nearly completely ground down by adulthood. The traditional diet may have been low in refined sugar resulting in low gum disease and cavities, but I'm not sure it was so great for the teeth. I'm all in favor of looking at different foods, how they are eaten, how they impact our dental care. This can be done in an entirely scientific way based on factual knowledge about teeth, their growth and structure. There is no need to invoke made up stories about some alleged distant historical evolution of teeth that supposedly caused teeth to evolve for this or that purpose. Eric Anderson
The bible says that only after the flood did people start eating meat. So therefore there must of been a change in teeth structure. Indeed it seems wisdom teeth are such a crowding issue because our faces/jaws changed to allow the more biting meat pattern of teeth. In fact YEC creationists should predict and expect teeth arrangement and so possibly problems. Robert Byers
hello Robert Byers

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